Skip to main content

Refraction in Nature

This phenomenon shows a straight stick being put into a pond at Sweet Marsh. The stick appears to bend at a different angle when it starts to enter the water. Students can see how water changes the appearance of objects when they are in it, consider how other objects look in the water and wonder if these objects will look different in a variety of other liquids.

Sweet Marsh, Sumner, Iowa

Driving Question

  • Why does water distort the way objects look?

Probing Questions

  • What properties does water have that make light reflect?
  • Why can we see into the water but also our own reflection?
  • Is there a better angle to see into the water?
  • Why do objects look different in water than out of water?
  • How do predators outside of the water adapt their hunting strategies to catch prey in the water?

Classroom Suggestions

Students could:

  • Design the best contraption to catch a fish in water.
  • Design a scope to adjust for refraction distance in water to spear a fish.
  • Test to see if different types of clear liquids have the same effect.
  • Determine if salt water and unsalted water have different refraction.


Iowa Core Alignment


Integrate qualitative scientific and technical information to support the claim that digitized signals are a more reliable way to encode and transmit information than analog signals

Credit Info

Submitted by Travis Angell as part of the Iowa STEM Teacher Externship program.

REAPCorporation for Public BroadcastingAlliant EnergyMusco Lighting Pella